Monday, March 07, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

Mayor Dave Bing addressed the Detroit Regional Chamber last Friday. In his remarks, Mayor Bing explained that attracting young professionals to Detroit was a key part of the city's redevelopment. He went on to assert that the City of Detroit is business-friendly.

To quote the great sage, Yogi Berra, "It's deja vu all over again."

I say this because Mayor Bing is, by my count, the fourth Mayor of Detroit in a row to make these assertions. As for the difference between him and the other mayors, according to Mayor Bing, he remarked, "What I think has been missing in the past is good leadership. You can trust this administration."

I feel a need to hop on my soap box on several points here.

First, after 40 years of life experience, I've come to the conclusion that the first person to stab you in the back or steal from you is usually the person who tells you repeatedly how honest he or she is. Honest people, at least in my personal experience, simply live up to their commitments and lead an honest life. They never feel a need to tell anyone how trustworthy they are.

Second, Detroit has never had a problem attracting young people to the inner city. Our challenge has always been retaining them after certain events such as marriage, the birth of their first child, or the first time they are the victim of a crime. Quite frankly, I see very little in the works that will change this.

Finally, as far as the City of Detroit being "business-friendly" goes, I will simply remind our good mayor that Detroit is one of the few major cities in the world where retail businesses can neither apply for nor renew a business license on-line. Instead, business owners must:
  1. Go downtown;
  2. Pay for parking;
  3. Endure a security screening at city hall on par with most airports;
  4. Wait in line at the Business License Center; and
  5. Most likely, have to wait in a similar line at at least one other department as well.
The entire process takes up most of day, in a business world ruled by the adage that "time is money."

So, yes, I have now heard Mayor Bing tell us for the eighth time in two years how trustworthy he is. I still, however, remember him as a candidate telling us how, "Detroit needs change - change with a sense of urgency." In spite of this, most the City of Detroit's bureaucracy remains intact and it still uses the same technology that they used back when Albert Cobo was mayor.

We still have a tax burden that is roughly double national averages.

We still have a police response time that lags well below national averages even though the Detroit Police Department has one of the largest budgets in the country on a per resident basis.

We still have challenges keeping our street lights on.

We still have problems with our streets.

We still have large sections of our city that are contaminated with lead and other hazardous materials.

And we are still slow to respond to dangerous buildings in our neighborhoods.

But at least we have a mayor who is willing to tell us repeatedly how honest and trustworthy he is. The young professionals who are moving into Detroit will undoubtedly solve everything else.

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